This finely ribbed, tense, trembling bridge

My beard will quiver passing
ankles and my heart flare chests
of poppies on an island* where
two orphans as one hero once
carried water dreams among twisted
vegetables in baskets woven from children of clouds by children
of wide footed fathers

As my marrow body dissipates, my soul flows larger
and larger
I have an idea, an inspiration, Float me to Paris!
To the Pont des Arts where this all began**
Place me down into my footsteps
to walk again across
and across
this finely ribbed, tense, trembling bridge

clever little you, are you returning
to your self, your sanity, your
sanctity? Do you remember clean
hands and a pure heart
, clever
little you? Do you remember to be
honest and thankful always?

clever nods, and with his hand upon the lip of his liver, There are no hours
Let God play God
Let caesars play God
[aside] (It is a thankless occupation anyway)
I am here to float between
and trust life--

Yes, yes, that’s all very perceptive
and cerulean. Just remember,
clever little you, each step
suggests the next. Frustration
breeds frustration; and faith breeds

Yesterday, I was lying on my left side--
As the pain diminished my father suddenly
appeared. We discussed how he had not done
a good job as a father--and, then, agreed
that he had done the best that he could.
I would have gladly left us on this grace
note of forgiveness when I turned to him and said,

But you’re fired.

clever little you, remember each step suggests the next.
Frustration breeds frustration; faith breeds faith.
Clean hands, clean hands, pure heart

Last night I dreamt my ribs were garden fence
posts, white pointed pickets that have contained
my seething. I kicked two in to release the anger and allow it to
gush forth.

clever, clever, clever little

*Skyros, an island in the Greek Aegean

* * Le Pont des Arts is a foot bridge which crosses
the Seine, a “suspended garden” designed during
the reign of Napoleon to lead into the Palais des Arts,
the Louvre. An eighteen year old student of French
poetry began his vocation here with an acoustic guitar.
His pockets may have been occasionally empty but
Fammerée was brimming as he meditated on the river,
its hieroglyphic reflections of continuous story and warm,
sculpted banks where troubadours in previous centuries
experimented and performed in the same forms.

This finely ribbed, tense, trembling bridge [#65]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *



You still hold the get out of jail free card.
You owned the yellow and red properties. And
the trains and utilities.
When the internist in his gray office asked
yesterday, I decided to tell him.

I spoke to the top of his careful head as he wrote

I was standing on narrow legs
next to the 7Up bottles resigned to be
carried down to the cold of the cellar creeping up
the polished steps.
They were small, but I was smaller.
Our necks were narrow; their shoulders were dusty
and their caps sharp.
They were not my friends though I was always happy
to see them.
I sourly sliced
my finger. It did not bleed and, then, it did.
You were negotiating and arguing
with your mother about money. I wiped the blood
along the thigh of my trousers.
She said, You’ll have the businesss when I die. Elaine will
have the house.

You pleaded, then shouted, I don’t want to have to wish
for my mother’s death to put two kids through college.

That’s years from now, she said, she smiled. Carelessly,
ceaselessly. Her teeth were stained and

It was a Saturday morning, our time together
each week, all of us.
But it was different now since my grandfather’s death; and my stomach
was turning.

I could smell the corned beef in the sunlight of early April
almost noon. I probably protested when you said, Then you won’t
get to see the kids
I had been born in that house. I knew each big button of the soft yellow
sofa where he had swallowed me in his long arms, these arms,
and the mahogany ribs of each chair waiting at the table
for great aunts and uncles and the flowing
flowing flowers of the unstained
carpet in the large room where I had learned
to walk.

My stomach was turning, but I wanted to stay and eat from
a green glass plate and drink from a cold, clean glass and have
a proper napkin which smelled like Grandma and Aunt Elaine. And leisure.
And Sous le ciel Paris s’envole une chanson, hm mm. . . . The black and silver
iron shining to its point in November, December, January and February.
That first eternity of cold.
And sunlight finally in the grass beneath the buzzing tree in back and dripping
drinks made with lemon wedges and soft sugar.

I must have protested (though never vociferously); perhaps, I cried a little; you
knocked me down the flight of stairs to the back door where the sun was hiding.
It did not warm me where I lay in my sudden puddle.
Nothing warmed me.

It had not warned me. Nothing in the world had warned me.

The silver car, the spindle and boot looked down on me, suddenly bankrupt
and already losing.

Monopoly [#64]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


The Green Christs

I follow my great-grandfather.
He can barely walk and he can barely talk.
He is two years old.

His brother Eugène is already six. Eugène will stay here
in Belgium, and my great-grandfather will marry
a woman in Chicago whose mother wears a mantilla
before the fire in the parlor as horses clop
past toward Halsted Street.

My great-grandfather carries a soiled green bear
whose name is Lala.
The little bear’s red jacket is very red and brocaded.

Eugene and his wife are buried next to the tomb
of his parents. Their names and dates are faint,
and the Christs have turned green.
Where the sun was an egg yolk and now peach, nine
sheep, one donkey and a rooster rehearse for Christmas
eve beneath an apple tree.
My great-grandfather, who last stood in this churchyard
in 1883, is buried alone
with his wife Flora near O’Hare Airport.
Only I know the graves now.

My great-grandfather and Lala stumble toward his mother.
She offers me half a plum from their garden and eats
the other half, then opens another.

She offers half to me and half to her son.
--Shake the tree, Richard, and the fruit which fall is ripe.
And always open a plum before tasting it.

Her fingers are stained and strong and fine. She could
play piano. A neighbor,
the soprano, begins to sing. My great-great-grandmother’s
eyes, sotto voce, focus separately upon the bluing
and swaying.
She has Ruth’s eyes, and she wears no jewelry.

Her last roses are old and big as breakfast bowls.
She plucks a petal between a tall burgundy door
and a tall burgundy window.
--You should have come earlier, then you would have seen them.
They were beautiful--and everywhere.

The Green Christs [#63]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Green Christs” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

The Green Christs

Je marche derrière le père de mon grand-père.
Il peut à peine marcher et il peut à peine parler.
Il a deux ans.

Son frère Eugène a déjà six ans. Eugène restera ici
en Belgique, et mon arrière grand-père épousera
à Chicago une femme dont la mère porte une mantille
devant la cheminée du salon alors que trottent des chevaux
un peu plus loin vers Halsted Street.

Mon arrière grand-père tient un petit ours vert, u
n peu souillé, qui s'appelle Lala.
La veste rouge du petit ours est très rouge et brodée.

Eugène et sa femme sont enterrés à côté de la tombe
de ses parents. Les noms et les dates sont à peine lisibles,
et les Christs sont devenus verts.
Là où le soleil était jaune d'oeuf et maintenant pêche, neuf
moutons, une âne et un coq répètent la nuit de noël
sous un pommier.
Mon arrière grand-père qui se tenait dans ce cimetière
pour la dernière fois en 1883, est enterré seul
avec sa femme du côté de O'Hare Airport.
Je suis le seul maintenant à connaître ces tombes.

Mon arrière grand-père et Lala s'avancent en trébuchant
vers sa mère.
Elle m'offre une demi-prune de leur jardin et mange
l'autre moitié, puis en ouvre une autre.
Elle m'en donne une moitié et l'autre à son fils.
- Secoue le prunier, Richard, et le fruit qui tombe est mûr,
mais ouvre toujours une prune avant de la goûter.

Ses doigts sont tâchés et puissants et élégants. Elle pourrait
jouer du piano. Une voisine,
la soprano, commence à chanter.
Les yeux de la mère de mon arrière grand-père,
sotto voce, s'arrêtent à la fois sur le bleuiment
et le tremblement. Elle a les yeux de Ruth,
et ne porte pas de bijoux.

Ses dernières roses sont hardies et grosses comme les bols
du petit déjeuner.
Elle cueille un pétale , entre une grande porte
et une grande fenêtre bordeau.
- Tu aurais dû venir plus tôt et tu les aurais vues.
Elles étaient belles--et il y en avait partout.

Les Christs verts [#63]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Green Christs” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


The Smell of French Books

The smell of French books is particular. It is the bloom
of favorite shoes and pillows plump
with nursing, bells
of etched glass and cream yellowing in the belly of a spoon.

The smell of French books is one candle and three cold
canvases in a crumbling room in Picardy and meadows
beyond the rusting
crucifix, pinking with puberty and wooing the mooing cows.

There is a Livre de Poche beside the bed. I refresh myself
with Pierre Bonnard’s busy virgin in her emerald bath,
then struggle through four more pages.
Little accents fly off like perfumed arrows. From dialogue
I guess the plot and meaning of the story--
as I do in life.

I remember so little grammar, my ceremony of French books
will never change.
It is the lick, lick, lick of a chocolate clock, and I am asleep
before the chiming.

The Smell of French Books [#62]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Smell of French Books ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

To experience a performance of The Smell of French Books
please visit:
and listen to selections #8.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

The Smell of French Books

L'odeur des livres Français est particulière. Est-ce la senteur
des chaussures favorites et l'oreiller potelé
par l'allaitement, la cloche
d'un verre travaillé et la crême jaunissante
dans le ventre de la cuillère.

L'odeur des livres Français est une bougie et trois toiles
refroidies dans une chambre désolée en Picardie
et des prés pubères au-delà du crucifix rouillant, rosissant
en courtisant les vaches meuglantes.

Il y a un livre de poche près du lit. Je me rafraîchis
avec la Vièrge de Bonnard occupée dans son bain émeraude,
puis me débats tout au long de quatre pages encore.
Les petits accents s'envolent comme des flèches parfumées.
Du dialogue je devine la trame et la signification de l'histoire--
comme je le fais dans la vie.

Je me rappelle si peu de grammaire, ma cérémonie
avec les livres Français ne changera jamais.

Je lèche, lèche, lèche l'horloge en chocolat, et m'endors
avant la sonnerie.

The Smell of French Books [#62]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Smell of French Books ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

To experience a performance of The Smell of French Books
please visit:
and listen to selections #8.

* * * * *



Our Mother who art in everyone,
everything is thy name.

Thy garden serene, thy waters green
the earth as they blue the heavens.

Thank you for our daily bread and the blessing
that no one can be satisfied until everyone is fed.

Forgive our ignorance as we forgive
those who ignore you in each of us.

Lead us from fear and deliver us from anger
and anxieties,

for life is a ripening to return to you, to feed you,
to seed you,

to be reborn forever and ever


Notre-Dame [#61]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
please visit:
and listen to selection #5.

A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxckOMETDH0

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *


Notre Mère qui est en nous
tout est ton nom.

Que ton jardin soit serein, que tes eaux
verdissent la terre comme elles bleuissent le ciel.

Merci pour notre pain quotidien et le bonheur
d'être certain qu'aucun ne sera rassasié
avant que chacun mange a sa faim.

Pardonne-nous notre ignorance
comme nous pardonnons
à ceux qui t'ignore en chacun d'entre nous.

Ne nous soumets pas à la peur mais délivre-nous
de notre colère et de nos tourments,

Car c'est a toi que revient la maturation
de la vie, pour te nourrir, t'ensemencer

et renaître pour les siècles des siècles


Notre-Dame [#61]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

(The story)

I have visited so many sacred sites, by design or fortune, that
a singular lesson has been amplified beyond revelation to certainty:
each of us is the innermost sanctum. One needs travel no further
than the soul to experience the most perfectly proportioned temple
and the most daringly elegant cathedral.

Still, I shall relate the story of "Notre Dame," a poem which has already
surpassed me and my relatively few years walking the earth.

Kato Zakros is the final town at the eastern tip of Crete, an island
of famous mythologies (Minos, the Minotaur, its labyrinth; Theseus,
Ariadne; Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus (prototype for God
the Father, God the Holy Ghost, Mary and God the Son)) and mythic
civilizations (Minoan). I had once dreamed of living among its fabled
palm trees--the first I would have ever had seen--during my two year
journey (which I sometimes call my third crusade) which began in
County Kerry, Ireland, and ended in Jerusalem. Nine months into the
adventure, that first spring, I found a garden house in Mirtos (along
the southern coast of the island) and ventured no further east than

I finally visited Kato Zakros fifteen years later during my return
pilgrimage to Mirtos. I found a small room above the pebbled beach
which looked directly across the eastern Mediterranian to Acre.

It was in that white bed floating over the site of a vanished, vanquished
Minoan Temple, the Queen’s Magaron, the wife of the Lord’s Prayer
appeared to me. It began as a trickle of words in the fissures of the
ancient, shadowy ceiling, and they puddled into a cloud settling
upon my chest and blossoming behind my eyes.

I rose and wrote out the Lord’s Prayer and began to construct a new
poem--its “lost half”--alongside.

Nine months later, I discovered the poem folded into Anabasis
(St. John Pearse) at the bottom of my knapsack among fragments
of writing and songs and addresses hurried across
half sheets and receipts. I left it in my bag as I prepared for a
flight to Tel Aviv.

I arrived to Jerusalem three weeks before Passover and Easter
and decided to begin my Peace Tour of Israel, Jordan and Egypt
immediately to arrive back to the Holy City during holy week.

Having crossed the Red Sea into the Egyptian Sinai after a fortnight
of wandering Arabia enroute from Jerash and Petra to Aqaba, I
settled thankfully into a straw hut in a Bedouin camp. A little shade
upon the path to Mt. Sinai was a relief. There was another westerner
living in the camp, a German woman whose intensely blond hair was
always covered with a black scarf. A devotee of mysticism and desert
deities, particularly fertility goddesses, this woman without child
kept to herself. One afternoon we met in the absolute silence of the
desert near a primitive sink. If I were composing a Bible story, I would
say that we met at a well.

I recited the fragments of the poem I would name "Notre Dame" two
weeks later in Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris enroute back to the

Her eyes were intense as the sky we were hiding from, her skin
cured as a person’s twice her age.

Hermitic--and hermetic--as she was, she encouraged me to birth
the words to the world; and I finished the poem that night walking
beside the gentle ripple of the Red Sea, revising aloud with each
step. It was a full moon, and I recited into its eyes and purity.
Distant fires in the desert, I later learned, were Israeli families
singing and feasting, for it was also the eve of Passover.

I recited Notre Dame into Mount Sinai. I said to Jehovah, “If this
poem displeases you, I stand here naked in the place where two
apostates (with rather complicated, forgettable names) were
devoured by the earth--”

The night remained still, benevolent.

I recited the poem again a few days later on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem
at Christ Church.

And again months later at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama during the World Festival of Sacred Music. I had just returned
from the island of Kauai where the music had been born as Aphrodite
from the sea.

Melissa Dittmann, now living in the back country of Tibet, graciously
accompanied me. Fortunately, I recorded the moment.

© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
please visit:
and listen to selection #5.

A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxckOMETDH0

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *


The Conversion of the Monotheist

namaste from dear old Blighty. I hope all is particularly relevant for you. I'm enjoying an entire dwelling as my landlord and landlord are blundering about in the Himalayas.

Such luxury should not be wasted.

Valerie wrote of more humanitarian awards. There was another audience with “His Holiness.” She included a photograph of herself tanned and smiling, hanging off the Dalai Lama--the kind of gag photograph tourists create with a digital camera and computer.

It appears she and Byrol are “in correspondence.” Lovely. Akhun left Turkey with Natalie. Another wanker. They’ve traveled on the Continent and are now en route to New Zealand. I imagine them in Thailand, bronzing and blonding, two beautiful--well, at least one beautiful specimen of our tribe.

Received photos from Nilüfer, of all people. There’s a group shot from our first days in Selcuk. We all look as we should, hardy in uncompromising sunlight, though your rugged good looks appear distracted by her hair. She’s asked me to forward it to my friend “the poet.” That’s either you or St. Loup. I assume she meant you. He’s a limp formalist.

She’s penciled
Monday on the back of one and Lily on another. No dates or explanation on anything else. Peculiar. Like something from antiquity. We find things like that, a single item, one word scratched into its surface. All that survives a civilization.

They’re back in Istanbul. She misses Kas, the harbor at night. I can’t imagine she’d miss that bloody club. Too bad I had only a fortnight. Cyn and I were happy there. You appeared happy, too. You must have been. How long did you hang on there--two months? Now that Meriç is dead, I imagine they’ll leave the capital. Cyn informed me that Nilüfer’s mother died, as well, this year. She must be having a rough time of it.

There’s a photo of the baby. He looks just like Byrol--with hair. I’ll soon be off again--Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. If you want postcards--and the photo--I’ll need more than an e-mail address or does your celebrity status preclude this?

Take care and let me know when you intend travelling to Hindustan. We could meet again in the madness. Don't dirty in church, Skoog.

5 February ‘94

The Conversion of the Monotheist

Fourteen years before, I dreamt,
I am springing.
Leaves bathe me and flail me. I rip
at their fingers for food. I am cunning. I am
running twice
as fast, and my eyes are twice as large, and
the arrow is my nose.

Approaching Ancient Smyrna

house, blue house, sky-blue horse
neighing the earth emerald, nibbling
Red painted over
red fingernails clawing a peach perfectly
bitten to its veined seed. Undulating
bellies are velvety for more
seeds, ready to birth more olive
tongues and more seeds excited into sight
by a fist of citrus sun.
The under bellies of my fists
press their branches to cold glass
mirroring bird-embroidered
trees whose leaves are tongues
for the wind and fins invoking

Resting, resisting and not resisting

I am weary of stones
and their hard stories and the earth
sponging up so much writhing and trees
sponging up so much writhing and so much

I want the morning to taste of beginning. I
have come to Lydia to taste
beginning. Blood orange, blinding

yolk, the one eye plumbs even my lemon
stomach for something to ripen.
Open me. I need to be bled of fear and anger which
were fed to me before I could chew.

I have not slept since Istanbul, and
weariness amplifies the sensation of being
myself and another descending
four sinking steps.

Behind a facade of souring
bricks, a field is sinking,
blinking. Leviathan slumber, purpling,
anticipating the next flood.
Trees root into their backs and into
the sky (as we do, bleeding,
Fruit ripens to rot if it touches the earth
before it is eaten.
I taste blood among the sacrifices.

Here is
a goddess who has eluded Christians,
Vandals and connoisseurs.
Here are her lips, but they are
petrified. What horrors has this Daphne
fled? Could my seed warm her and worm
her open, or would I dry upon her,
I kneel to her
ankles, to unbraid her.
Animals drink here.
Another man may drink here.
Many lips may be necessary for the busy
chemistry of life which clouds
and quivers this fugitive
womb, sapphiring, firing.

There is no evidence of a single male god in all
the mud.

An engine and its horn blare.
In the vast temple of birds
not bothered, this shofar is my signal
to return.
The bus is churning and stinking.
The driver beats stagnant air
with the paddle of his free hand; but I do not
My bag is still tied to the roof next to a crate
rattling and screeching.

Passengers curl embryonically. A soldier
kneels into sleep, his forehead pressed
to the seat next to mine. Uniform thin, wrist
flat, the wrist of his rifle turning; I dare not
disturb his severe devotions.

The woman who ate the peach turns to my
agility, offering a succulent seam.
The seed drops to the floor.

As I begin to sleep, fish confide in me.
Their gilding is a hoard of lemon spurs and
finch and a fiercer, unnamed yellow, purer,
more potent than gold.

A white horse circles a tree. Her infested tail
swishes and swishes. It prevents bees and
me from approaching.

White horse, lie down and rest
No loss shadows your soul
You are not defeated by a wall of flat leaves
You are not defeated by that which is not seen

I ride you into sleep
Your dreams are not troubled
You do not fear sleep (as we do, entangled
or alone along a ticking perimeter)
You awaken to beginning in your white coat
of copper light
I want to awaken to beginning in a coat
of light

My head rattles against glass. The three of
A whistling wolf eats one of three standing.

My head rattles a thousand times,
and a thousand hands beckon
from a palace wall. Each assumes a glove
of leaf septembering. Children shuffle
below, avoiding more
instruction, ignoring premonitions
and ravens.

What happens to hands of the dead?
a school of flies debate.
What will happen to these hands
and their harmonies?

My grandmother reaches for me as she did
when her kitchen was warm-- But I have not
yet almost died and learned to walk
without a bearded god.
I have not yet loved and parted from all
the characters in my story.
Some have not been born.
My only child has not been born, and I have not yet
recognized her mother.

Ephesis and above Ephesis

Selçuk, midday, mid August, is very
flat. It is a mirage without filtered water
or weeping fruit.

A man waves a tarnished key at my thirst, "Visit here, visit Ephesis, then, go to a place near the sea like Bodrum."

His museum is a nunnery of thighs, insteps, eyes, digits, breasts, dozens of toy Cybeles, a nipple of Aphrodite. They whisper me through a vestry of combs, pins, tear glasses and blind mirrors to the complete goddess.

When the guard finally turns back to his gate, I approach the perfection. I am ready, my fingers promise the mysterious decorations veiling and alluring me to the adytum of birth.

"It's a copy. The equivalent of a photograph. Those would have been actual testicles. Skoog, Oxford." His hand, which is stained, does not stain mine. "The original statue would have been much larger and adorned with jewels and sacrificial body parts," he gods with a fountain pen.


"Of sorts."

"May I?"

"If you like, but anything in this mausoleum will prove more inspiring and informative. Still, if you like. . . . I could bring you to her source."

When the sun is less absolute, Skoog leads me from the cloistral chill of marble and its white exhalations into the red dust of a town suffocating beneath centuries of shuffling.

Beyond a perimeter of carpet shops and reflecting walls dripping bougainvillea, [This blossom fell to its name upon this page, August 18, 1989, Selcuk, Turkey] our shadows point to a rough hole, a dry well adorned with shovels and pick axes.

"In your country this desolation would, no doubt, be a car park." I approach, tethered. A single column protrudes from the earth as a vertebrae. "Christianity has a thorough way of supplanting previous mythologies.”

"When the first apostles came and struck the painted head from the white breasted body, the impotent rejoiced at this pool."


"Me. And if one were to follow those trees--"


"Imagine walking that emerald nave into dusk and darkness and dawn."

"Processions began here.”

“The first cathedral.”

“The Temple of Artemis. ”


“The seventh wonder of the world.”

“Even Mary's beatification was celebrated here, once Christianity began to gather momentum and pagans. Smoking censers, holy water, just as in the fat days of the virgin huntress."

"Christianity opposes the worship of goddesses--"

"Vehemently. But it’s a shrewd faith. The original multinational. Short term compromise, long term profits."

Far enough above the trees, the distress appears less.

“Let’s not be too severe. Our gods of commerce are destroying far more of the sacred world than those poor buggers could have ever conceived,” Skoog randomly loosens earth with the trowel of his shoe.

"Une palais,” he prods as a weary husband.


“Well, a wooden post stood in this hole and here--" his heal reveals a perfect quadrant worn into stone, probably cut by Skoog himself three thousand years before, nonchalant alchemist-- "a great door swung."

"And here, an azure glass of grapes. And here, a cruet of their blood. I could recline in this chartreuse hollow for centuries--"

"That was a fire pit."

I recline regardless.

"Too late to ascend. Tomorrow, then." He is dripping.

"Tomorrow, Ephesis."

"Later in the week, perhaps. Where are you staying?" We are amplified by a nesting emptiness.

"I haven't a clue. My bags are at a restaurant."

"I'm sure there's room at the inn. We've a velvety verandah, peaches and yogurt for breakfast and all the characters any writer could devour--”

We pass before a violet wall, white only an hour before, still shedding flakes of blossom, pink and numerous and abandoned as valentines.

"Cynthia is looking for you."

"Hello, Wencke. This is our psychiatric nurse from Lapland."


"Where is she?"

Wencke shrugs her hair to one shoulder, glowing. "She was in the shop."

"Your nose is burnt."

"Yours is longer. Enjoy the sunset, boys."

"Your English is superb."

"My English is American. I studied in Berkeley. "

"I learned to perform there, on the street. Do you know Shakespeare & Co.?--"

"Yes, well, I was married to a professor. Shall I tell her anything if I see her, Skoog?"

"Tell her yes."

"You're so clandestine. If only you were romantic and handsome, too." She turns, her last words leaping Germanically into a sudden confirmation, conflagration of birds.

"Oh, to be a sip upon that tongue," Skoog drinks from my plastic bottle, umber powdered.

"To Lap nurses."

“Nurses' laps."

This and the rising breeze quivers the sapling in me. Cicada rub more rapidly. Dust rises to my cheeks, leaving its touch along my sleeves. A traveler’s benefice, this serein of shades breathing past me, against me, for dusk is the morning of their half of the day when they walk again for a first time among the flowering grasses of the scrubbed hillside. And now, I suppose, I shall rewalk this day among them, forever searching for a remembrance among abbreviated, impending pillars.

The conversion of the monotheist

"Sorry about the kitchen, darling," Skoog coos to Cynthia, leading her by the hand into a depression.

“You should be.”

Akhun darkens, then, scion to generations of money changers, evaluates Cynthia's friend, Natalie, who is also from Perth. Unfortunately, her fetching name is not echoed in her looks or demeanor.

I scratch at a wall with a desultory stick hoping to loosen some fragment of a Saturnian age, at least Roman.

Skoog leads us from ruin to ruin, room by room up the hills. His banter is rehearsal, our camaraderie Chaucerian. My companion is Alexander. He teaches me to sever every Gordian knot. I wish I were breathing all this from the freckles of Wencke’s shoulders and arms.

Higher, still, where flowers are thorned and grass perspires more sweetly, the heat is even more dizzying.

Cyn and I kneel and drink from a well adorned with pilgrims whispering blackly in Portuguese. According to tradition, the mother of Christ expired here.

“Her body is buried somewhere beneath these stones,” whispers Cyn, a little disoriented with revelations, Alice again
in a Wonderland of Catholicism.”

I remain beside her, our shoulders touching by a breath as they had once before a candlelit crèche in a colder century, and we are both pippin cheeked and sleepy with epiphanies. “How many mothers, priestesses, sibyls are buried here?” An adult voice, my voice, startles me as if it were a priest’s higher up, closer to the source of light and dark.

I look directly into the source of shadow. "Skoog, do you realize where you're standing?”

It is the poet again quivering through his chrysalis who would awaken Gaia, Artemis, Mary--each of her--from the domes and thighs of this lost Jerusalem.

“Every goddess of Asia Minor has been excavated or stumbled upon here. The terrain itself is the body of a woman."

He kneels into our reverence, but only for effect, for Cyn, I suspect. A passing radio recalls us to a happier faith, She would never say where she came from. Yesterday don’t matter when it’s gone. . . and we, the newly chosen, choir in benediction, Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who can hang a name on you--

At dinner Wencke does not smile with me. I’ve waited all day to impress her.

"I'm only sorry that everyone is so surprised.”

"She's a recovering academic and Norwegian," Skoog reopens an incision.

"Whatever will become of your dead god nailed to a dead tree now?"

“What will become of your immortal soul?”

"What will become of you now that he has seen this? I suppose, you'll write the paper, Skoog.”

"What are you eating, Skoog?" Natalie hurries past.

"Tunj, what is this anyway?"

"Has anyone seen Akhun?"

"He was just here."

"Snails," de Saint-Loup raises a metallic face from his plate.

"I'm eating snails."

"Those are bottom feeders."

"Who isn't."

"Tell Akhun I'm staying and taking the gig, will you?"

"The gig. American vernacular is gathering at our gates. I shall never capitulate," de Saint-Loup picks at a silver tooth with a tooth of a fork.

"What are you alliterating about now, Wolfy?" chews Skoog. "Besides, Natalie is not an American--"

"Well, if she were--”

“Well, she is not.” Skoog raises a chipped cup to a chipped tooth,“To our intrepid poet and his lost Jerusalem.” He hesitates. "It would be interesting to know the Dalai Lama's opinion, Valerie--"

"Please, not that again, Skoog," de Saint-Loup expires.

"It's not for me. It's for Shakespeare here."

"You scoff always."

"Wencke, poets delight in edification. Look at him. I'm sure you'd like to edify him, wouldn't you?"

"Are you a Buddhist, Valerie?" Hero and husband produce a very Bordeaux bottle. “Michael, the corkscrew.”

"Of course she is. All California girls are Buddhists. The Dalai Lama is a chick magnet."

"Don't be an ass, Skoog."

"I met His Holiness in Darmsala."

"How did you arrange that?"

"I was producing a special for PBS in Boston. He allowed me a question off camera."

"What did you ask?" Hero pours neatly, prepared to forgive life.

"Imagine a world directed by women--presidents, the next Pope, the next Lama--"

Each of us receives half a glass as if it were Valerie’s Bat Mitzvah. Hero’s blouse is creased with disappointments; her profile, pure Picasso.

"And?" It is good to see a little color in Wencke’s cheeks.

Skoog, sip, sip, sips, saturnine.

"His Holiness said nothing. And, then, 'I've never considered this before.' "

"The most enlightened man in the world, and he's never considered this before-- Even I've thought of that," Skoog glances over the balcony, changes colors and waves a wine glass, brimming with expectations.

"He became emotional--"

“Of course he did.”

"Wencke, come with me tonight to Ephesis. Tunj told me where to find the entrance beneath the fence. The sun rises along the avenue of chariots. We can watch it from the theatre."

Happily preoccupied with the whispering European wine, Tunj nods to no one in particular.

Wencke flushes to the frontier of her Dutch boy blond hair. Her little teeth scamper back. "Are you coming, professor?"

"I've been," Skoog offers Cynthia a persuasion of irregular teeth. “Besides, I’m a bit fatiguée.”

"We could walk the processional way between trees."

Wencke ignores me.

At midnight, without notice, without knocking, she enters my room. Her hair shivers to one side, a perfect wing in timid light, the blush of a manger the night of a birth. A girl emerges from her trunk. They wend to my bed, the moon and Venus reorienting my legs.

"This is Nilfur," Wencke sniffs at my soap and shampoo. "You like beauty."

I concede sleepily.

"I'm not so surprised. Are you Libra?"

I shake my head. Wencke clicks, clicks and a yellow eye of flame resurrects from her fingers and multiplies, converting my cell into a chapel.

Nilfur touches my writing journal. Her fingers are so slender, they tremble in retreat to the nest of her lap.

"Do you write as you travel?" I whisper, heightening the chiaroscuro. “Do you?”each sleepy syllable a pilgrim to the foliage of her hair, thick as fleece blonded by a northern Italian summer. Two blushing pilgrims, ready stand.

Wencke rises. "Let's go onto the roof. Bring the guitar." The door swings, extinguishes the candles. Ite, missa est.

We venerate the moon. Laundry is flapping like flags. The pension moves imperceptibly toward the Aegean. We are the night watch.

Wencke says, "So many lights and yet so lost."

I murmur. She clutches the railing.

Nilfur disappears into billowing bodies of bed sheets.

"She'll be fine. She's like that."

"Another caryatid lost.”

Wencke inhales to clear the interruption.

“You know what your problem will be--”

“Tell me.”

“You have so much capacity for love--”


“Yes. And you believe all of it even out.”

“All of what.”

“All of you. You lose the most precious each time, don’t you? Happiness requires wholeness.”

Not a sound rose from the vast, waiting altar of earth below us, the oldest earth in the world.

“Wholeness, holiness. It’s the same.”

“Forgive me, but you don’t appear particularly happy.”

“Happiness is not the imperative for me that it is for you. I have learned not to expect.”

“That’s rather sad, Wencke.”

“Perhaps. At least, I am not living any longer a mediocre cinema.”

“Had you?”

“It’s a common deviance. The belief that the sum of trappings can somehow approximate essence. I was in a marriage like that for years. We had French frying pans and a wolf. There are photographs of us on every continent for evidence. But we never touched each other--inside.”

“Do you think Hero is actually her name?”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“Tunj would know.”

“Why is that important to you?”

“She fascinates me.”

“Don’t be a fool. You can see tooth marks on her husband.”

“That’s cruel.”

“Try not to make too much of an ass of yourself.”

“I don’t know what you mean--”

“Oh, yes, you do. Do think the husband is happy.”

“I think she’s not in love with him.”

“Why would she be with him?”

“Why are most people together?--”

“Precisely. But you’re not most people. She desires an elegant life, and she’s waiting until something better comes along. He seems like a nice man, innocuous, funny, even handsome in a predictable sort of way. But he’s not glamorous. That’s his transgression. He’s not glamorous. And so, she’s watching and waiting and spinning. And you want it to be you.”

Her laugh was gilt with brutality.

“Of course, there is a minor complication. She’s pregnant.”

“How do you know?”

”She had no wine, and that was a very expensive bottle. Intended for private consummation, not the likes of you and Skoog.”


“A child will create a welcome diversion for a while, but not for long. She will become more dissatisfied than she is now. Remember what I said. Happiness requires wholeness. It is not to be found outside. It is to be cultivated.”

“And what do want, Wencke?”

“I have what I want.”

“And what is that?”

“All anyone can hope to have. Myself. And I’ve found what I came for--"

“Have you?"

"Our pilgrimage is the same, yours and mine.”

“Is it?”My fingers map the nape of her neck.

“A desolate field. All that remains of a temple of a Goddess."

"A hole and a bone."

“. . . By any other name. I, too, have spent my countless afternoons in Shakespeare & Co.”

The following evening Skoog refuses to stop elucidating. He persuades Wencke again not to follow the unlit, moonlit avenue of trees to Ephesis. They cross a foot bridge in the opposite direction.

Women sit upon stone steps. Children charge from one doorway to another with large eyes and large teeth. Wencke, Nilfur, Cyn and Skoog recline among them beneath a tomb. A perfect frieze, Skoog and his school of women awaiting an explanation.

"These would have been trees and this, a sacred grove,” I join them. “Still,” I circle back, “there is a certain truth in a pillar.”

“And providence in the fall of a sparrow.” This is, after all, Skoog’s proscenium.

Turkish women and girls nod at our engagement. Teeth are gold rimmed or missing, but this does not diminish their appetite. Nilfur translates. There is more nodding. I am surprised that she is Turkish. She tells me, "This village is my home. I am visiting my mother who is ill."

"Where do you live now?" I raise my eyes from her profile carved into stone.

"In another small village. South. Along the sea. Kas."


"Yes. You should visit. And my name is Nilüfer."


“Yes. It means lily in English.”

I ask Nilüfer to guide me through the quarter, but she prefers to remain among the ruins.

Her back, storied with shadows, a gate, illuminated with shadows, reminds me that I had arrived alone only days before. None of these friends knew me then, not even Skoog. I rise as a prophet in his own country and shake the dust of me from my sandals. Hive after hive is lit from within, three, four generations muffling the clinking of silver to glass with gossip and giggling, unaware that this is the eve of an Exodus and history will change.

The air is crystalline in agreement, tinkling; no wind, only the murmur of primitive electricity and untempered voices. Revelations await me where the cobbled path turns up.

When any woman, prematurely matured by kerchiefs and cardigans, steps out into darkness, it is to hurry--with the cunning of a virgin or a spy--to another house. Children are called repeatedly and herded home. I laugh. The furious mothers may as well be herding cats.

I laugh again, echoing deeper into the labyrinth. A truck appears. It is red and round like red trucks in children's stories. Children scurry indoors. Doors close. Windows close. A mother is shrieking. Shrieking. Suddenly, a mist clouds up, dispersing into a veil, softening stone, making iron less sinister, suggesting a gentler version of the story as mystical occurrences do.

I respire.

The veil resurrects. It billows and swallows from every direction, every corner, ubiquitous as a Semitic god. A cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. This is both. Its kiss is chemical. It is a breath that kills. I spring back, but the vapor has done this before. It backs me to a wall, devours my hair and mouth. Something rips. My lips oh--(How many times will I form my lips into a choking surprise as if reenactment, a small physical incantation, could return me to before that moment/miasma and undo the damage.) But I won't swallow. I won’t. I make my eyes and nostrils smaller and spit out and spit out. I spit out all the way back to the pension.

Tunj and his father assure me, "It's for the mosquitoes." "It's for the mosquitoes." "They have no liver and so they die."

I shower and curse and cry.

Nilüfer regards my fury with pale curiosity. Wencke offers thin lips. There is barely pink between her chin and nose. She rubs her hands together vigorously and palms my eyes. "Keep them closed. Keep your eyes closed and try to relax."

But I won't. I won’t turn into a pillar or tree.

Winter and below

I have received your words after waiting for many weeks. The last time I talked to you by the telephone, I thought you have a voice that is in a new place now and OK there--a voice I don't remember. It was so far away, as if we don't really know you and me. I don't know how to say this. So I decide that I will not telephone again but this has been very bad time waiting for you to write to me. I check my mail box every day. 2 times every day. And there is nothing, so I come upstairs and try to be happy for the baby, but Byrol too knows there is something very wrong with me now.

He thinks it is my mother's death. And it is, but it is your illness and our separation too. I can not take this. Sometimes I am hoping I never see you again. Never. And then I pour myself a cup of coffee and suddenly cry while I am drinking. I think our love went very deep. Do you think so?

I am so sorry that you have been ill. You seemed so happy in Kas. You were never ill when we were together. We were of one branch, never bruised and like now. What do you mean that you almost died? Is this possible from jaundice? Is this possible in America? Why can't I be with you? How is the world like this?

I am sincerely happy that your friend was so helpful. Is she your girlfriend now?

I sat with my mother as often as I could. Just sit. Sometimes I sang to her. She had a beautiful voice. She became so small with her illness. I wouldn't recognize her. No, I would but it was very, very sad. I imagine you in the bed. It must be terrible for you, my darling. Without the baby coming this would be impossible for me. My mother isin my baby, and you too.

It is better when I imagine you on the hillside and crying together, and the terrible cold chicken picnic we ate. Do you remember? The day we visited the little island.

It was good that we did not make love with our bodies, even though Meriç told me every day to do this with you. She is helping me with this letter. But I was so worried. She thought it was about the baby and told me that it would make the baby easy. I can't explain. I think maybe you understand. But it was a time for our souls to love. The bodies--that is nothing in compare.

We will place flowers on the bed as we promised if ever we see you and me again.

27 Nov. ‘93

From the barque of my bed, I explore every rivulet which begins at the cold light and roots to the window above the dressing table. I am yellow as a yolk. It is not pretty, but it is my inheritance, my crest, a shield which does not protect me from without or within.

There is terrible pain beneath my crown. It severs my skull and lower back as if I would open and escape as air from a balloon into air; but I have decided to resume this sack of branches bound into bones and sap fermented into blood.

Someone left a Bible on my bed. I rolled over in my sleep and it dug into my ribs like a stone. Its miracles are dry in my mouth, a catalogue of creation as something without mud, without torment, without tremor. I remember a different Genesis.

I eat from your fingers again and again beneath the thin tree. Its shade is uncertain and uneven and stripes your beautiful wrist, trembling shadows where I kiss and kiss the single blue vein from which anxious, newborn leaves flutter.

The only serpent is time. We believed the laziness of its belly.

And then it strikes, and I am alone suddenly in a cold place without you, and I may never see you again.

I died, Nilüfer. I did. Perhaps, for only a moment, perhaps, longer. My death was half water, half sky, and I floated into its belly, a blue temple, affable, laughable as a bridegroom in a foreign ceremony.

Death held me as if it were saving me from drowning. I smiled to myself reflecting up and floating to me as your legs the afternoon of the silver fish. My hair was thick as your hair. Perhaps, we were brother and sister, possibly twins. Can you feel that?

The blade of my body dropped into a cold mouth gurgling where lungs are made strong and clean. Leaves bathed me and spanked me. I ripped at their fingers for food. I was cunning, suddenly running twice as fast, and my eyes were twice as large and the arrow was my nose.

The sky swallowed. My splashing through echoed wildly. You were not cold upon a gleaming, slippery tongue of stone. You sparkled. Water pulled tangled hair and seaweed along your left leg, and cream was coming from your body.

At your lips I did not hesitate this time.

24 Nov. ‘93

Before I left that night, the last time we saw you and me together, Meriç pushed this into my hand. It was twisted as my heart. She had done that. She becomes very nervous now after the operation. Byrol wanted to see but I held it against me to Istanbul.

I will let you see it. Only you. Meriç wrote this and made this translation for you.

I have a good feeling about you together. You will both learn and discover things about yourselves and about each other which will help you in the future. This is a time for making your life. I feel the water goddess around you, protecting you as you journey in. He is a good companion for you. Don't let him dominate your life though. See him for what he is--he has a good spirit and open heart--but put your trust in you, not him. You must be secure + rooted in yourself.

You are already carrying your happiness in your heart.

Keep a mystery. Don't make it too easy for him that he could take advantage of you. You are in search of a lost part of yourself, and your relationship with him is helping you to find and retrieve this.

He has a golden heart for you--I feel he loved you in the past. He still wears his heart for you. Everyone sees this. But put your trust in you. You are similar in this way--he cannot become dependent on you.

And do not attempt to try to control him, because then he will retaliate--even subconsciously toward you. You should know some dark energy tried to interfere with his breathing in the past. He needs to clear this out with good. He needs to heal his relationships around him. Someone put a curse on him. But it did not succeed. However, he carries some upset from that bad relationship. It was a very unhappy, dependent person who would have drown him in her sorrow and grief.

You both have a strong sensuality. I saw it when you were dancing. Integrate this into your spiritual life to release yourselves from the pain and wounds you still carry. Do this together. You can heal each other. Practice a sacred sexual. Start a new life. The old one has not worked. He carries an anger, you carry an anger. Buried. Help each other work it through and let all of that go--

Each day dawns but once.

16 Dec. ‘93

Upon the 40th day of my illness, I crawled from my metamorphosis to roast a chicken. I carried the heart outside and displayed it upon the snow. Something would eat it.

Without a body to nourish, it was no longer a heart, just a hard little thing upon a numb crust of cold.

Hobbling and sucking a lemon drop (poor little jaundiced eye like mine), I slid recklessly along an icy tunnel of sidewalk delighted with my ripening nose. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, the prophets, popes and kings thumped up the barren stairs over my shoulder. We rested at every landing in the stench of another generation boiling onions; but I am free. I am twenty-eight and I am free. The fever has burned away prejudice, and my prejudices--born of mimicry of fear--were a self imposed periphery. They weren't even mine. I am free to rebuild on this scorched place. I am free to entertain any thought, any deity. No mythology or tradition will ever again dictate my developing mythology.

A scab developed on my back. I picked at it and panicked: skin cancer. But I had not developed skin cancer. My mother had.

She asked that I not visit her after the operation.

She wants me to remember her as my beautiful mother.

Her sisters cautioned, Don't listen to that nonsense-- She needs to see you--

Mother was adamant--and she also later refused to allow me to carry her up stairs, though father could not do it alone.

When her wig was finally removed, she was not embarrassed before me. The nurse, whose eyes had not quickened during a final, bedside fit of euphoria after the patient had abruptly swallowed a belly of air, taped my mother’s eyes closed. The pastry pink nightgown stained again and crumpled as a napkin.

Here was all that remained of a girl who had studied modern dance and classical piano, taught me to water-color paint and sing harmonies to the English.

Her hair, insignificant as the priest’s, had once been my nest in our sacred hour of the orange cowboy book.

Those were the years before I had been inducted into assigning a name--an ineffable name--and a racial and paternal orientation to the fountain, process and mystery of life. Happily napping, still warm from the egg, counting the random dance of lint in light, her hand pressed to my chest, her belly warming my back, and heaven, which was bluing all around me, did not miniaturize me.

Now, she lay as Ophelia in a pool of deranged blossoms. The flower of a heart is unrelenting. It pushes and pushes until it breaks the vessel of the body, if necessary.

I brushed her fingers surreptitiously with an insufficient blessing of my beard. Here was all that remained of the vessel of my birth, a frail figurine exhumed from a desolation which had once been a sanctuary.

Upon the third day, she was lowered into the earth and became a gilded drum. Dirt thumped and thumped. A man imitating a raven muttered unintelligibly near the shovel, his little, worn book open but not fluttering.

I looked over the workings of the one male god, and left him there to those fascinated or scurrying from a hole in the ground, the womb which had just swallowed the seed of my mother.

Three days after the green, limpid pool

Three days after the green pool had reflected broken teeth of pillars and Nilüfer's slim legs dangling without shoes, we entered a great salt wave. Stumbling and sea bludgeoned back to pebbles and sand, we laughed and it felt good to laugh and she found my hand, which said, I'm coming with you-- She said, "Do you feel? Do you?"

My blessing hesitated. Her skin was as the belly of a fawn. The quieter I became, the more she pressed my hand until it dropped, unhappy stethoscope. She drew my mouth to her neck. "When?" I whispered into the mythology of her tendrils.

"Before you came. No, even before. Before I went to Selcuk."

The seiche of red vines (which are veins) and splintered, thorned branches (bones) shepherded our half sentences.

"Why did you come from there?"


"Why didn't she come with you?"

"She twisted her ankle at the circumcision party."

"Yes.” Her head dipped and turned as the swan she must have been. “Look.”

A treasury of silver fish clouded the fantasia of our four feet, and we, each half of a godly, lonely ark, prepared to survive our Genesis.

“You stayed with her."

"She had stayed with me when I was ill.”

“After I left.”

“After you left. I brought her meals and we sat together in her room. Sometimes, she read, I wrote. Most often, we were silent. It was very serene. I have happy memories of those mornings.

“There was always a basin at her feet of orange peels floating like feluccas upon the Mediterranean. Their fragrance was delicious. One day, abruptly as a sibyl, she said, 'Go to Kas. You will be happy there.'

“I wasn’t certain I had heard her correctly--she had a towel draped over her head and she was respiring with purpose. I offered the skin from an orange to her foot bath. She pushed my hand, 'Go. You will be happy. I don’t know, I don’t know for how long-- Why should that matter. Even a little happiness-- ’ "

Nilüfer lifted my hand and brought it beneath her chemise. "You didn't recognize me. Do you remember?"

“That’s not true. I couldn’t believe it was you. I didn’t know where to find you. I never thought I would see you again. I only knew the name of this town. And, suddenly, there you were--a myriad of you polishing brandy snifters in a room of mirrors.

“The sky was reflecting and your hair so full and blond, and the wood smoke and tobacco from the night before still so lazy in the air, the miracle burned in my throat. I almost pretended to sleep so that you would come over to my table and awaken me. But you didn’t recognize me.”

"Yes. But you had been so angry that last time I saw you. The mask of your face was very different--"

"The night that we were poisoned."

"And your hair has grown and you have all this now," she poked at my chin through a beard.

“And your eyes were so sad. We are siblings in that way."

"What do you mean?"

"We offer so much to others, and, yet, we do not--trust enough?--to receive--or ask. And so, we each carry a sadness adulterous as that cloud."

"I had just come back from my mother."

"To Byrol."

"Yes, to my life here. We weren't happy for a long time. He's nicer to me now."

"Because of the baby--"

"And you. He knows. Valerie, I think, told him.”

“Why would she do that--”

“He says he knows anyway. Don't make such a funny face. You don't understand. He is very different for a Turkish man. Probably because he lived in Germany for so long. Other men kill their wives for less, much less in these countries."

"He'll use the baby to separate us now." Words became stones in my mouth, and I feared for the safety of my teeth.

"Don't be this sad. Don't be this selfish. It's very difficult for me."

Our knees and fingers mimicked the lingering of a blossom to a leaf, retelling the story, open mouthed and quivering.

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony.”

“Did you write that for us?”

A smile she had not seen before. ”Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

"Please let's not be unhappy. Not today. Not now," Nükhet began to climb away from me, away from us with a kiss that tasted of a stomach in turmoil.

Tears clung to her hair, silvering as the sea between templed knees from where deities could view us at their leisure. The light diminished more slowly than is possible. The whimsical old gods must be sentimental.

Whatever or whomever whispered about us, Nilüfer and I held on to each other in an awkward, adorable embrace typical of siblings who are lost or were lost.

She removed her arms from mine and removed this pink scarf from her neck. These tiny shells tinkled uncertainly at the hollow of my throat. I counted them and inhaled her through the teeth of green things.

The scarf does not smell like that now. It does not smell like Nilüfer; and it has begun to fray.

We found Meriç reading close to the water.

The right side of her skull was noticeably convex. She had had a brain tumor removed the previous year, and she had to be careful now. She could not swim or climb. So, she encouraged us and read while she waited.

That day, it was a small green book of fragments. Meriç adored romantic fragments. Meriç adored us.

“May I?”

She smiled, and then, she didn’t.

“Can you translate?”

She shook her head as a child might who has been called upon. “He seems as fortunate as the gods to me, the man who sits opposite you and listens so closely to your sweet voice and lovely laughter--

”Who is that, Meriç?”


Shadowed by roses. And from the shimmering leaves the sleep of enchantment comes down--

“It's late now," her half face crumpled. Even this curious, pitiful mask was unable to further detain the curtain of night.

She folded something into Sappho and led us to the boatman.

As we bobbed and bobbed back, I promised Nükhet that we would see each other again. “Someday,” I whispered into her hair, and her hair hurried into the wind.

“What? Monday?”

“Yes, Monday--” I called back to her.

“Monday!” And we laughed and laughed. Monday would be our code for forever.

Byrol was waiting at the dock in Sabit's van. "Nili, your mother is dying," he said. Nilüfer became thin and cold as a candle and automatically crawled in behind him. Meriç frothed and stumbled after her.

I watched Nilüfer through the exhaust of the van, a soul peering out through a glass darkly, a Persephone peering back at the place where she had been the marriage of sky and earth.

All that remained was a shadow upon the earth, the needle of a compass quivering for direction. Meriç tempted me back to the harbor. She was not allowed to pull. She was crying. Boats were bobbing and ringing as if Nilüfer had not left; but there was no pregnancy in their passion and pushing now, only tedious hammers bereft of chimes. Serpents of light quivered as they had the night Nilüfer interlaced our fingers and pressed them to her lips, blessing them in Turkish; but their glittering was not long upon the book of black water. They became servants of desiccated prophecies, flaming swords turning every way to guard the approach to the tree of life.

And there was no shimmering of leaves without and within as there had been when Nilüfer had walked among us.

One diminishing lamp flashed as a heart, and then did not upon the altar of that night.

She is not departed. She is not departed, my shadow assured me each time it rejoined my body.

"Worry about her. Byrol is hurt and angry.”

“The human heart is illiterate. It cannot decipher a lapsed contract.”

“Yes, well, that’s all very fine for you in your America.”

We stood too close to the water, disturbed as gargoyles, salt deities ignored since the pale, noisy days of purple banners and earliest lifetimes.

“You have been given a promise. Both of you. It is always a question for people, which they should trust. There are only two--promises of faith and promises of fear,” Meriç limped.

"Prepare the boat of you. Make it clean and warm and ready, Richard.”

Stretched across this bed like a scroll upon an altar, there is only this from the tips of my left to my right: In the beginning we were fashioned from a rib of the tree in the stark place on the little island where we sat together holding each other and crying. The place where I ate from your fingers.

The promise of the serpent upon land was ugly and unconvincing. We followed into water where eternity is evident. Our body was our boat, and we rose with the flood. We wore no faces. We had no need. Our souls iridesced as eyes.

Death became a refinement. We slept the fables of its waving forests and migrated its cemeteries.

The particulars of each version of our story do not matter, age nor gender. We are generations of a single promise, more exquisite with each turning. Only your fingers do not change. I know each of your fingers, Nilüfer.

When we separated in Kas, I wanted to return past the flaming sword of myself, turning and turning, guarding the approach to our beginning. Perhaps, I wanted to die--to find you again.

As we promised.

5 January, ‘94

This faint stain is blood from her
lip. I wear it when I walk before
the sky.

I have seen her since--crowned in a pink
and burnished tempera; turn
distractedly, smooth
the paper of a package upon her
lap; sleep,
one hand abandoned, one white hand
touching hair from her cheek

The Conversion of the Monotheist [#1]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *



In Evora there is a church
and the church was once a mosque
and the mosque was once a church
and the church was once a temple
in the time of the Romans

Behind the altar there is a false tomb
and beneath a Christian name there are thousands of years
of roots writhing through stone
and water echoes up vertebrae which must have been steps
and its light is the juice of emeralds

Now, consider the well that is my throat
and the pool that is my chest

What does one do when a well has been capped
for so many generations?
Is water safe in the stomach?

How did I become addicted to a self-imposed periphery,
its tithes, its prick and its poison?
Can all of this be unlearned in one generation,
one season, one summer?

My grandfathers and grandmothers
and their grandparents meet for the first time in me
I carry them to familiar places
I am their hands, their thighs, their nose,
their eyes, their lips, their teeth, their tongue

How did I become addicted to a self-imposed periphery,
its tithes, its prick and its poison?
Can all of this be unlearned in one generation,
one season, one summer?

I am the voice and the body now
and all that is closed will be opened
and all that hurts will be repaired
and all that sleeps without dreaming will be green again

In Evora there is a church
Inside the church there is a tomb
and inside the tomb there is a cistern
Inside the cistern there is water
and it’s light is the juice of emeralds

Evora [#58]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

“Evora” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of Evora
with music composed by the artist, please visit:
and listen to selection #1.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


A Evora il y a une église
et avant l'église il y avait une mosquée
et avant la mosquée une église
et bien avant encore un temple romain

Derrière l'autel il y a un faux tombeau
et sous un nom chrétien des centaines d'années
de racines s'enchevêtrent à travers la pierre
et l'eau résonne dans ces vertèbres qui devaient être des marches
et sa lumière est la sève des émeraudes.

A présent, imagine que le puits est ma gorge
et l'étang ma poitrine

Que fait-on quand la source est enfouie
sous tant de générations?
L'eau est-elle toujours intacte en son ventre ?

Comment me suis-je laissé aliéner par cette périphérie imposée,
ses dîmes, ses piqûres, ses poisons?
Tout cela peut-il être désappris en une génération,
une saison, un été?

Mes grands-pères et mes grands-mères
et leurs grands-parents se rencontrent en moi pour la première fois
Je les conduit dans des endroits qui leur sont familiers
Je suis leurs mains, leurs orteils, leur nez,
leurs yeux, leurs lèvres, leurs dents, leur langue

Comment me suis-je laissé aliéner par cette périphérie imposée,
ses dîmes, ses piqûres, ses poisons?
Tout cela peut-il être désappris en une génération,
une saison, un été?

Je suis la voix et le corps maintenant
et tout ce qui est fermé s'ouvrira
et toutes les blessures seront réparées
et tous ces sommeils reverdiront

A Evora il y a une église
et dans l'église il y a un tombeau
et dans le tombeau il y a une citerne
et dans la citerne il y a l'eau
et sa lumière est la sève des émeraudes

Evora [#58]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

(The story)

For once I should have listened to Zarathustra, Johnny (Jean-Claude
from Suresnes), Oceana or at least Slippers, fellow street musicians
outside of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. Even the Irish singer with the
pregnant Dutch girlfriend--who collected for all of us on a good day--
knew better. But I was barely twenty years old. Instead of searching
for a discounted flight, I rode trains and buses south and soon realized
that (1) Marrakech would be much farther than my hand-drawn map
suggested and (2) winter was not a cooperative season in the Basque
region or Spain. Portugal lay anesthetized at the edge of the world,
only the wind recalling the resurrection of green in April and braying,
praying for its return.

Evora is a relatively small town which grew around a very prominent
cathedral. I surveyed pillars which appeared to be Roman; they were
smooth and cold to the touch and colder by the moment. The desire
for warmth awakened me from the spell of history as the tepid, watery
light continued to diminish. Fortunately, a guitar is a passport, and I
was welcomed into a family restaurant and their evening sessions of
songs and tales.

Five or six days later, an overnight bus was finally announced for
the Spanish border. The granddaughter who lived on the top story
of the moldy stone house informed me, then invited me to follow
her to the cathedral. I was led to the altar where her grandfather
was kneeling. Through her translation and angular movements he
requested that I help him remove a brass plate set into the marble

I knelt and examined the polished, reflecting testament. A long
name, a long cross, a dash separating two years--the most succinct,
evocative poem in any language.

Not sharing the Portuguese and Spanish enthusiasm for skeletal
remains of saints, I hesitated. My companions struggled. I closed
my eyes and prodded and pushed with my fingertips.

Gradually, eyes still closed, I felt a moistness, a freshness, a presence.
My fingers were bathed in a green light rising as a mist from the
sepulchre which held the remains or fragments of no perceptible body
other than the womb of earth.

The elder explained with foreign words and signs. The young girl
translated haltingly. I began to understand that this church had been
mosque and Saracen stronghold in the time of the Crusades; a church
again during the epoch of Charlemagne; a temple in the time of the
Romans; and the source of pure water, the source of life, the presence
of the Goddess in prehistory. The water was still pure after centuries,
as it had been in the beginning.

Through Spain, bus after bus, I searched the metaphor and realized
as we arrived to a trembling vista that is the sea between land, the
Mediterranean, I am that church. Each of us is that church, guardian
of the source for the portion of forever we call a life.

By the time I stepped into my first morning of Morocco, I had finished
this poem and its accompanying music.

Evora [#58]
© 2008 Fammerée

* * * * *

“Evora” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of Evora
with music composed by the artist, please visit:
and listen to selection #1.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


Even a God

When all statues are relieved
of measure and divinity and fall or do whatever stone finally does,
that next morning, we shall have to live, even as orphans of white forms and brass
forms, without
and cut,
names without
verdigris, without pedestals and pigeons, however first
or last

True, I shall miss cold breasts and clean

When the hero on the horse is gone
I shall have to face the sky with eyes
that never close and a composure that challenges even a

Even a God [#57]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


A little dusty and turning inwards

At a sudden sound my daughter asks, What is that?
convinced there is someone in the back garden;
but there is no one, only death standing in the tall snow
watching me through the window or perhaps,
perhaps, the house plant whose leaves are already
a little dusty and turning inwards.

A little dusty and turning inwards [#56]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée


An Argument for Eternity

A boy is holding a green button
A field is holding the boy
and three horses gazing and one
pony tittuping narrowly, narrowly, wanly
. The river Egress
is holding the field and a fish
for every tree, a leaf
for every fin

Fire holds the river; sky holds the fire

The button is all that remains
of a velvet Sunday
school dress, green as everything forever
of the earth, forgotten of the earth, forsaken
in the earth, each wish, each

All that remains of the girl, first
girl and last: rain and cathedrals
inviolate, the light regardless and green

The button is holding the boy, green
boy, tree boy, ignorant of Sundays and Sunday
schools, their god, their heaven, their claims
to April
He seeks one promise as they seek one God

and he is guardian of the button, hand-painted relic,
splinter of her sixth year, pilule, proof of
resurrection, the second emerald

the promise of her
chalice above and below

An Argument for Eternity [#55]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *


I Was This

I was this, I was that white
reminding me of my aspirations, every destination
beyond the field of cows. Of crows.
The sun is the same and the gradation of green
from colors extinct (beyond viridian) to the absinthe
of the waving bank fed by the Lethe.
I lie down spotless, wing and wing and a body only beating to support wings.
I am before words,
before words were committed to the page,
before the page was married to thought,
before thought was narrowed to a line, a long, dead

I Was This [#54]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Spinella

* * * * *


Camera obscura

I could capture everything
with one hand

It was our last day
at the mouth
of the river and its turning

We visited the elongating woman
and her valiant child her stout blond boy
where spirits enter the world
the tree its swing
wooden and waiting
within its arc
a mother once a sad faithful woman
my mother
still attending from two frayed ropes

I captured it

I captured my daughter running
between water and violet
fire and viridian
emeralds and ancestors their green
day bed of reveries
a mythology of first days

I captured the mythology of first days

I captured the great tree
the river ensconcing
spirits approaching
poets remembering
silent blue sounds yellow in the air yellow
in my hands and nostrils

Of course I want to cry

I believed I owned all of this by virtue of recognition
and capture

Spirits in the cemetery did this
I’m fairly certain I purposely left
my shoes
on the beach take those malcontents lying
in the throat of earth behind
tongues of stone and names
and dates vanishing greedy
even without their bodies

The earth does not cleanse them
religions are wrong
They took the camera and will never return it
We are hidden
in their earth and ash in the earth
and ash of their hearts

for the earth is not theirs it never was as it is not ours

Fortunately the swing was a camera

Fortunately the sky is a camera

Fortunately I am the camera

my leg is the camera

There are other explanations
Someone in the airport
Some things never leave the island
shells and lava stones for example inanimate
intimate witnesses I suppose I too
will one day be kept behind

At this thought at night
to the rhythm of my breathing
and my wife’s breathing furrowing
with our few seeds breathing up and breathing
down while squirrels run
up and run down on the other side
of the dark glass hurrying
and hurrying for a few seeds
I review everything I can remember
our daughter the dazzling viridian
the mossy Arthurian the hurrying forward
and back the kicking and chasing the bright
blue ball the bright blue bowl of sky
she will remember and identify with
I pray
from a time when I was with her
at the mouth of the river

Camera obscura [#53]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *


OK to Disconnect

I have been advised to protect myself
by inviting the aggressive and envious into light and spiritual

never attempting to protect myself with reactive anger or curses. Wencke of the Arctic Circle amid 320 droplets
of gold confirms, Curses always reflect back.

Send angels--she reappears--and see what happens--

Susan of Middle Earth and revolving blue lines greening toward their center, suggests to say, ‘Come into the light. Can you find a teacher or loved one to guide you?’ Most entities will vanish. If they have not, continue to lead them, protecting yourself with prayer in the presence of the Mother.

Rachel, once the wife of Jacob, unties knots, however tedious,
with fingers whose bones were born of Bethlehem. They will remember
and fashion a tiny crèche beneath a tenuous tree centuries later
as she chants in the ancient, difficult language of words braided
lyrically together. Thus east become west.

Carol of the Circle of Songs at the bower of all to be sung
braids fire and light. Thus west become east.

Eileen is the fifth element required by meditation. Somehow
she conjures and preserves images from the forever dark of the boy
who walked the valley of the shadow of death and feared no evil.

This is an offering, then, for the lone light in the all
darkness, circle within a circle within a circle within each
indecipherable consonant cryptic yet glimmering as the amethyst
belly of stone. In fact, it is written on nothing, on air.

So, flight. I move now in a medium of nothing and everything--
which is refreshing. Flight will teach me to walk again as I should have been taught as a child, in the days of reflecting, distorting red orbs-
-which can no longer follow
and disturb me.

I am no longer a walking remembrance.
You know who you are. Forgive me.
You know who you are. Do not come to me with stories of past lives or future debts.
I can no longer carry this.
It is yours now. I am disconnecting, and with each pull of fingers I envision feathers. My daughter
brings me an array of feathers. Dark, dark blue, true, true green and ravenous red.
She calls them leaves.

It is surprising that life becomes shallower and shallower.
This morning I saw Yeats float by, face up, a book pressed to his chest. His poetry, I imagine.
There were others, perhaps his colleagues. I did not recognize them. Some were
face down, dressed in somber colors only further darkened by water;
I had not slept well,
but, still, I did not search for myself among them.

I could not sleep those first nights in the teeth of the ravine
where the menaeds had left me.
Every time I moved my leg, I awoke, startled with pain.

You know who you. Each of you. I send you an invitation into light,
but the place on my back just above the right hip is no longer available to you.
I hear your footsteps hurrying forward and back, along earth and marble. In alarm
as I caulk the weeping hole with earth. The weeping hole with certainty; the bleeding
with a single curtain, call it compassion, for it is white and sheer;
the grieving
with practiced gratitude.

It should have been evident that anyone who loves me for what I do
but not for who I am, does not love me. This includes myself,
of course--for why else would I have encouraged lesser love

Take what you have. I shall ask for nothing in return, but I send you
forth from me as I send me forth from you into the remainder of all.

I have thirty-three years before me. I was told this multiple times
in the mirror. The face was not and may not be recognizable.
I have thirty-three years of work. And, now, that I recall my destiny--
my assignment, now that I have a certain direction
to walk, I shall walk.

Here is the chain that cripples:
Cynicism is a symptom of a lack of faith.
A lack of faith, of course, compounds cynicism and eases the corridor
into unhealthy, unjust behavior

The only remedy is truth

The chain--as all chains--begins in abuse

The circle continues to wrap about itself, ever widening until
Jacob finally Wrestles With God
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
      But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?"
      "Jacob," he answered.
 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
 29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
      But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon. -Genesis 32

OK to Disconnect [#52]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *